As coronavirus spreads, University of Iowa students shift spring break plans

Between the cancelation of university-sponsored travel and the national 30-day travel ban to Europe due to coronavirus, some hawkeyes are grappling with the choice to continue traveling or stay home for spring break.


Jenna Galligan

Kaylen Luttenegger poses for a portrait on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in the Becker Communication Studies Building. Luttenegger canceled her spring break trip to Spain, but her family plans to fly her brother back, cutting his abroad trip short. “There’s just a lot of unknowns. It’s scary and weird.”

Rin Swann, News Reporter

Spring-break plans are shifting unexpectedly for many Hawkeyes leaving this weekend as coronavirus cases mount and the University of Iowa transitions to online instruction for at least a two-week period after break.

For some, the UI’s decision to transition to online classes until at least April 3 lengthens time spent at home. A monthlong ban on university-related international travel and an advisory from the state department to reconsider travel outside the country also has students foregoing once well-laid plans.

But for Hawkeyes who have invested money and time in anticipation of their spring travels, the decision of whether to go through with travel hasn’t necessarily been an easy one.

For Dulce Escorcia, a UI junior studying English secondary education, a canceled trip to Kansas City that was school-sponsored means that the credit they were meant to earn for a class and financial compensation for the trip is uncertain.

“The service trip is a big chunk of credit for the class,” Escorcia said.

At the beginning of the semester, Escorcia paid a $175 fee to attend and said they currently have no idea whether they will be reimbursed.

For Hawkeyes who planned for personal trips, the decision to not go was not as simple as following the UI’s travel cancellation. Senior Kaylen Luttenegger — who opted out of traveling to Valencia, Spain to visit her brother, an Iowa State University student studying abroad— lost hundreds of dollars when her family’s airline tickets were half refunded.

A “could be better, could be worse,” situation, she said it was.

Related: UI residence halls and dining operations will remain while classes move online because of coronavirus

“My family is very close, so it’s kind of a bummer pushing off the next time I’m going to see him again because I do worry about him and think about him a lot,” Luttenegger said of her brother.

A major motivator for students who are still planning to follow through with their spring-break plans is the money they’ve already spent.

Jenna Galligan
Brynn Holzwarth poses for a portrait on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in front of the Old Capitol. Holzwarth planned a trip to London over spring break. “If I had to say right now, we’re going, but my parents are skeptical. I honestly don’t know if we’ll be on a plane tomorrow.”

UI senior Elizabeth Orr and her four roommates will trave to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic over spring break, and Orr said the group does not have travel insurance.

“It kind of puts us in a bad position,” Orr said.

Her mind could be changed if travel restrictions widen, Orr said, specifically in the region she is traveling to. If she feels like she will not be able to leave, or the choice to go would be looked down upon by others, or put others at risk, then she will suspend her trip.

“My biggest concern is just if I did get it, then giving it to other people,” Orr said. “Because I can handle the disease or the illness, but I just don’t want to be responsible for giving it to someone that maybe can’t handle it.”

UI freshman Brynn Holzwarth said she will travel to London over spring break. While travel from the majority of Europe, with exceptions for American citizens, was banned by President Trump on Wednesday, the ban does not include the UK.

Holzwarth will leave with her family for a week to see a soccer game that has not yet been canceled. Though she’s concerned about potentially being unable to leave London once she’s there, or that the game and her plans will be canceled, Holzwarth said her parents trust that nothing like that will happen.

She added that if her family were to cancel the trip, they could lose thousands of dollars.

“[We would be] losing money for having to postpone the trip. Both my parents already took off for it …” Holzwarth said. “Both my parents have full-time jobs so we can’t just go any time.”

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the UI announced Wednesday it would implement online-only classes for the two weeks after spring break.

Holzwarth said she is worried about others who may be at-risk locally. However, she feels better knowing that she won’t be able to spread anything on campus because of the delayed return.

“I’m more worried about other people’s wellbeing. If I travel internationally, I put myself in that position,” Holzwarth said. “That’s my fault if I get the virus.”

While Luttenegger expressed frustration about the uncertainty of how classes would proceed prior to the university’s announcement of at least two weeks of virtual learning, she also acknowledged the difficulty of the situation.

“I think the university is doing the best it probably can. I think it’s hard because this is so unprecedented,” Luttenegger said. “I don’t really think there’s a template to go off of for this situation.”

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